Trading Standards Scotland (TSS) has launched a new campaign to help consumers avoid home energy-efficiency scams, and to steer them towards impartial and accurate advice.
With increased energy prices during the cost-of-living crisis, and bills set to remain high over the coming months, there has been an uptick in scammers’ attempts to exploit consumers’ financial concerns.
TSS has seen a rise in reports of online adverts, cold callers and rogue traders offering misleading information about the availability of grants and funding for energy-efficiency incentives.
Dishonest companies, often claiming to work with local councils or the Scottish Government’s impartial energy advice service Home Energy Scotland, have told consumers that they are eligible to receive government or council funding for products such as insulation, boilers and heating systems.
Customers are then told to pay for the products up-front or take out a loan, being told that they will receive their money back over time. These companies often overinflate their prices and then apply ‘discounts’ which are supposedly equivalent to government grants.
In the past year there have been particular issues with roof insulation. Several complaints have been received from people who were cold called and offered a ‘free’ loft survey. Those who agreed subsequently discovered that the ‘surveyors’ were in fact salespeople who tried to pressure them into buying spray foam insulation.
Some banks have warned that they could reject mortgage applications on homes that have spray foam insulation. There have been several reports of homeowners having difficulty trying to sell a property, take out a mortgage or release equity from a property with foam insulation.
Scottish Government Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur said: “I am pleased to help launch this campaign to protect consumers from rogue traders making misleading claims in relation to energy efficiency products.
“I would strongly urge all consumers planning to install energy efficiency measures to do thorough research. If consumers are in doubt about sellers’ claims, I recommend that they contact Home Energy Scotland for impartial advice.”
Cllr Maureen Chalmers, Chair of Trading Standards Scotland’s Governance Board, said: “Misleading energy marketing is a priority area for Trading Standards Scotland and we work throughout the year to tackle the problem of rogue traders who are exploiting the existence of energy efficiency grants to make misleading marketing claims in relation to products.
“We would like to remind consumers to be wary of cold callers or social media adverts for energy-saving products. Never accept information offered from these sources without doing independent research, particularly if they tell you that there are grants or funding schemes available.
“Before agreeing to have any work done, have an impartial assessment carried out on your home to find out which energy-efficiency measures will actually be beneficial to your property. Don’t agree to get an assessment done by a company who cold calls you – they will not be impartial.”
Chief Executive of Consumer Scotland Sam Ghibaldan said: “With energy price volatility being forecast for the rest of the decade, one of the best ways to reduce bills in the longer term is by reducing demand through improved energy-efficiency.
“It is therefore vital consumers know where to go to get the trusted, impartial advice they need. This important campaign will help consumers avoid falling foul of rogue traders and energy efficiency scams.”
Harry Mayers, Head of Home Energy Scotland at Energy Saving Trust said: ‘It has never been more important to know who you can trust to give you impartial and tailored advice about low carbon heating and energy saving home improvements. It is easy to be misled when faced with the vast array of information available from so many different sources, especially if you are feeling pressured to make a quick decision.
“Home Energy Scotland is here to help you make the right choice for your home. “Funded by the Scottish Government, our advice is completely free and impartial, and we don’t cold call. Our expert advisors can help you find the best way to make your home more efficient, warmer and cheaper to heat. We can also let you know what funding is available to help cover the cost of energy-saving home improvements, including grants and loans from the Scottish Government.”
The key aim of the campaign is to empower consumers who want to make their home more energy-efficient to go about it safely. It is encouraging Scottish consumers to:
- Have an impartial assessment carried out: This will tell you which energy-efficiency measures will have the maximum impact and will be most beneficial for your home
- Do plenty of research: Check trusted sources to find out as much as you can about the energy-efficiency measures you hope to install
- Find an approved trader: Get quotes from traders who have been vetted by Trading Standards and who have made a commitment to treat their customers fairly. Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified installers can be found here.
- Check the finances: Before having any work carried out, check that financial protection is offered in case anything goes wrong. Check if any grants or funding schemes are available in your area here.
- Check permissions: Check if any pre-permissions or notifications are required before installation (such as planning permission or building control)